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In early October, over 140 Midwest Energy & Communications (MEC) employees and contractors rolled up their sleeves on behalf of local community organizations and efforts through the Changing the Landscape Days of Service.

On Thursday, Oct. 5, about 130 southwest Michigan employees from the Cassopolis and Paw Paw offices organized into 11 teams to work on planned projects at 18 sites throughout Cass County. Additional volunteer support came from Mint City Trees, one of MEC’s contract crews, and Paric Corporation, the construction management partner for MEC’s headquarters project.

Some of the specific jobs and locations included landscaping, removing trees and installing electrical service at Arthur Dodd County Park in Niles; building a shed and raised plant beds and removing trees at the Vandalia Community Garden; trimming trees, installing weather stripping and painting picnic tables at Fitch Camp in Dowagiac; painting and building/grounds improvements the Cass County Sheriff’s Mounted Division barn, the Shriner’s Club in Union, and Beckwith Theatre in Dowagiac; and organizing and cleaning at the Pregnancy Care Center in Niles.

MEC also distributed six pallets of non-perishable food and 800 pounds of frozen meat to seven local food banks. The meat was purchased through regional 4-H programs over the summer fair season, and processed for donation purposes.

One of the highlights of the day was the makeover of the teachers’ lounge at Patrick Hamilton Elementary School. The team gave the space a fresh coat of paint, including some decorative elements and a chalkboard wall; rearranged the kitchenette and added a coffee bar and new furniture; transformed an unused closet into a functional storage space with shelving and baskets; and updated the bathroom with a fresh coat of paint and new lighting. Heather Nash, school principal, said, “We can’t thank you enough for the makeover of the lounge and all the work outside.  It brought many of us to tears to see all the hard work and special touches you left for us. Each teacher feels like they have a special space that they have never had before. You guys are amazing.”

The southeast Michigan team stepped out on Friday, Oct. 6. Adrian office employees worked with the River Raisin Watershed Council to clear and clean a section of the river. Materials purchased for the project, including non-insulated waders, chainsaws, and heavy duty brush loppers, were donated to the Council for use by future volunteers. MEC also donated materials to put in five kayak launches for future recreational use. Those will be installed by the City of Adrian in the spring.

“We’re committed to changing the landscape of our rural communities through service delivery, community development, and active outreach and volunteerism,” said Bob Hance, president/CEO. “Community service is part of our DNA, and this unique day represents our commitment to affecting meaningful and positive change throughout our rural service area.”